Around 500 homeless and ex-homeless people, squatters, tenants and housing campaigners gathered opposite Downing Street where a street kitchen was serving free food. Soon the protest spilled out into Whitehall which was blockaded with one banner reading ‘No More Deaths On Our Streets’. With traffic backing up police began warning people to leave the road or face arrest only for a cycle rickshaw carrying a full band to turn up and the lively crowd began heading down the road towards Parliament Square.
The march stopped briefly at David Cameron’s backdoor, the often forgotten other end of Downing Street next to St James Park, before making its way to Buckingham Palace where police were forced to hurriedly make a line in front of the gates to prevent the Palace being stormed. Sort of. Then it was onto the Pall Mall squat which had been occupied in protest at London’s housing crisis and was conveniently evicted on the morning of the march. A line of bailiffs were guarding the building and as the crowd approached one of them unexpectedly lashed out at a protester punching him in the face before being restrained by his colleagues and bundled inside. This took place in full view of several police officers who chose to do precisely fuck all about an unprovoked and vicious assault. Is it any wonder people call them the filth?
After a brief sit down protest at Piccadilly, the march turned into Soho where it was met with applause by many of the people drinking outside the busy cafes and bars. The once thriving Soho gay scene is being devastated as venue after venue closes to make way for chain stores and posh flats. There is barely an inch left of London that is not being destroyed as property developers seek to turn our homes and communities into soulless investment opportunities for the global super rich.
Finally the march stopped outside a new plush squat recently occupied by the same group who were just kicked out of Pall Mall. With music pouring from the windows protesters mingled with passers-by many of whom were supportive of the squatters.
This march was exactly what needs to happen in a city where an entire generation of children are growing up who will not be able to afford to live here when they are older. A housing movement that thinks creatively, takes no shit, does not ask permission and is fun to be a part of can only grow as ever more people see their homes come under threat.
The only down point to the event was the late arrest of long standing housing activist Phoenix, who was reportedly nicked for little more than not going inside the building when the coppers told him to. This follows the recent arrest of Jasmine from the E15 campaign and the string of vindictive arrests at the Poor Doors protests. This is starting to look like a deliberate strategy of trying to silence the anger in the capital over lack of housing by targeting the people that police have decided are ring-leaders.
Phoenix was unbowed, saying after his release: “Homes for all, keep squatting and occupy everywhere. Viva the resistance … one day we will all have a home”.
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